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US Troops in Kosovo Firefight


Violence in Macedonia has spilled over into Kosovo, where a group of ethnic Albanian insurgents fired on American peacekeepers. The U.S. soldiers returned fire, wounding one militant and capturing four others.

American peacekeepers in Kosovo engaged five members of the rebel National Liberation Army (NLA) in a brief firefight when the group crossed illegally into the Yugoslav province.

A spokesman for the NATO-led Kosovo force known as KFOR said after the group was detected near the village of Gorance coming from Macedonia.

When spotted, two of the militants dressed in combat fatigues tried to flee, before one opened fire on the combined American-Polish patrol. U.S. soldiers returned fire, wounding one guerrilla in the leg. He and four others were taken to the main American base, Camp Bondsteel, for questioning.

No KFOR soldiers were injured in the incident.

The confrontation occurred Friday morning, but did not come to light until Saturday. Earlier reports from KFOR mentioned only that a wounded man was detained, without describing the clash with peacekeepers.

The commander of the rebel National Liberation Army in Radusha, Macedonia, confirmed the details of the report. He said the wounded man, in his mid-20s is from the southern Kosovo border town of Hani Elezit, about five kilometers from where he was shot.

Kosovo is the main base of men and materiel for the NLA, which exploits a porous border with Macedonia to fuel its rebellion against the government. KFOR says the flow of arms and fighters into Macedonia has reversed in the last week, following the entry of NATO forces into the country to disarm the militants.

The British-led weapons collection operation is set to begin in northern Macedonia on Monday. But top NATO and Macedonia officials are still disputing on the number of weapons to be collected from ethnic Albanian guerillas. Macedonia's Prime Minister Ljubco Georgieski has criticzed NATO's estimate of the rebels arsenal calling it "ridiculous."

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